Pretty much anywhere in the Christian world that’s close to the sea, seaweed has always been considered an acceptable vegetable for Lent. (Although often it’s too cold and stormy in Europe to gather such things much during the winter and early spring.) They say that foods like seaweed that have a lot of iodine in ’em are good for keeping your metabolism from going too low. Seaweed also is full of fiber, besides having the normal green or dark-green or purple vegetable features. So if you start getting tired of your normal Lent foods, once it starts up, here are some weird veggies to try.
People in Brittany make seaweed butter like most places make herb butter!
Laver (a lot like what’s called nori in Japan) was a big vegetable in medieval/Elizabethan salad recipes, often with an oil and vinegar dressing. The Welsh still boil it down into a sort of pulpy loaf called “laverbread” and fry it like mush for breakfast. Here’s a recipe for laver soup.
Dulse is pretty easy to get in Ireland, Scandinavia, or Atlantic bits of Canada, although it’s more of a summer vegetable. It’s high in protein — higher than chickpeas, almonds, or sesame seeds, depending on how you measure it. It also helps cook beans faster. Here’s a Scottish recipe for Fish Pie with Dulse. Dulse in Iceland, with the funny story of Egil Skallagrimsson’s dulse suicide attempt.
Nori is available in a lot of grocery stores these days, at least the kind for making sushi. Trader Joe’s has that 99-cent package of “Roasted Seaweed Snacks” right now.
Kelp is pretty yummy also. Kombu is not only tasty, but when you cook it with beans, it’s supposed to fight flatulence! (Lots of beans being eaten during Lent, that’s all I’m saying…..)
(Hijiki is high in calcium. So if you’re fasting from “lacticaria” or “cheesefare” during Lent, this would be a good seaweed to eat. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of it grown wild in Japan is also high in arsenic, which lends a whole new perspective to the idea that hijiki makes your hair shiny and your complexion good. Ehem. So if you eat it, for goodness’ sake don’t eat much, eat it dry, and don’t drink anything much before or after eating it.)
Here’s a good site about Irish customs, including a recipe for pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and Lenten customs. On the east coast of Ireland, it was common to eat nothing but shellfish and seaweed for dinner on Good Friday. This was called “bia tragha”, shore food.
Seaweed recipes from a seaweed company’s website!